Dear friends and neighbours,
I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season. It's been a busy last few weeks leading up to City Council, which completed its final session of the year last week after extending to a third day. Below I've included updates on some of the key items from that meeting.
The provincial Places to Grow Act requires the City to meet prescribed growth targets for housing. As a result, our city has seen tremendous increases in residential development over the past five years. This is reflected in areas such as central North York, downtown and Yonge-Eglinton. In Toronto as a whole, the last five years have seen 311,350 new residential units and 7.94 million m2 of non-residential space, with an additional 2,362 projects in the construction pipeline.
While there are many applications working their way through the City Planning review process, some developers choose to appeal their proposals to the Ontario Municipal Board after only 180 days as permitted by provincial legislation. This removes control of decision-making from the City, as well as the ability of City staff and local communities to work through the process with the applicants toward greater consensus.
The increase in intensification has also placed immense pressure on the City's infrastructure and services to keep pace. This includes things like water and sewer systems, parks/public spaces, public transit and community facilities such as childcare. As a result, we must now focus on ways to strengthen our service provision to accommodate a growing population and maintain quality of life for existing residents.
At the last meeting, City Council passed an update to the application fee structure including increases for a range of development applications. This is a measure to help balance the costs of processing new development by shifting most of the onus from the City back onto developers. Through a re-evaluation of application fees, the City can look towards better funding the adequate staff and resources needed to manage the dramatic rise in development.
The City has reached a point where we must make upgrades to the public transit and transportation network. With Toronto as an exception, many large cities worldwide receive substantial funding contributions from other levels of government. Some also use tools such as road tolls or congestion charges to help fund vital improvements to transportation infrastructure. This ensures that the financial burden does not fall solely on the property tax base.
While the provincial government funds construction and operation costs of the major highways including the QEW and Highway 404, it no longer funds the maintenance of the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway in Toronto.
City Council has now supported the Mayor's plan for road tolls on the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway. While the amount and structure of the fee (e.g. flat or distance-based) have not yet been determined, the revenue it produces will be dedicated to funding transit and transportation infrastructure.
Additional sources of funding for infrastructure improvements passed by Council include a hotel tax (which will capture AirBnB and other home-sharing platforms) and cancellation of the tax rebate for owners of vacant commercial buildings.
Toronto Public Library
We have a great public library system in Toronto. In anticipation of the upcoming review of the Toronto Public Library's budget, I wanted to share some of what the library is proposing. The preliminary operating budget provides an overall increase to the Public Library budget over last year, including $20 million for a growing collection size, enhanced Wi-Fi offerings and access, increased program offerings in branches, and improved service processes.
On the preliminary capital budget side, the library is projecting $67 million in development charges over the next decade to help pay for things like a new library at the future Bessarion Community Centre. The new library will be a $12.6 million investment in our community and will provide more than double the existing branch space that is currently offered at the Bayview Village Mall location.